Feinstein Unveils CIA Torture Report (Updated) (Video)
Updated 12:28 p.m. | Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein unveiled the executive summary of her committee’s much-anticipated report on acts of torture used by the CIA Tuesday.
“This document examines the CIA’s secret overseas detention of at least 119 individuals and the use of coercive interrogation techniques — in some cases amounting to torture,” the California Democrat said in a statement announcing the release.
Feinstein said on the Senate floor there might never be a good time to release the report, but it is important to do so. The release of the report, Feinstein said, must change how the CIA works and prevent any future use of torture.
The release of the report, Feinstein said, must change how the CIA works and prevent any future use of torture.
“Never again,” she said.
The roughly 500-page declassified executive summary details the use of harsh interrogation techniques during the George W. Bush administration, and what the committee found were inaccurate statements about the program made to Congress and the administration in private briefings.
The report posted on the panel’s website, and reaction was swift.
“The release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program is an historic victory for our nation, the Constitution, and our system of checks and balances,” Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said in a statement.
Udall had considered taking action on his own to read the report into the record if it had not been released.
“My goal from day one has been holding the CIA accountable, shedding light on this dark chapter of our history, and ensuring neither the CIA nor any future administration would make these grievous mistakes ever again. The report released today achieves those goals and affirms that we are a nation that does not hide from its past, but learns from it,” Udall said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the use of torture had no benefits.
“It got us nothing but a bad name,” he said on the Senate floor of the practice, while praising the report and likening it to the release of reports on the Pentagon Papers, Abu Ghraib and Iran-Contra.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the report “thoughtful and thorough,” but it drew criticism from other Republicans, who dismissed it as a partisan document.
“Enhanced interrogation techniques employed by members of our intelligence community saved American lives, and Senate Democrats should thank these brave men and women who worked to protect us — not vilify them,” said Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas.
Critics of the release warned of the potential of a violent response or that terror groups, such as the group that calls itself the Islamic State or ISIS, could use the report as a recruiting tool or a rationale to kill hostages. The group of concerned members included Intelligence Committee Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida and Jim Risch of Idaho.
“It is unconscionable that the Committee and the White House would support releasing this report despite warnings from our allies, the U.S. State Department, and a new coordinated Intelligence Community document assessing the increased risk to the United States the release of this report poses. We are concerned that this release could endanger the lives of Americans overseas, jeopardize U.S. relations with foreign partners, potentially incite violence, create political problems for our allies, and be used as a recruitment tool for our enemies,” Rubio and Risch said in a joint statement. “Simply put, this release is reckless and irresponsible.”
A Senate Democratic aide rebutted that argument, saying it was the torture tactics themselves that were at issue, and that terrorists have taken such actions regardless of the report. The aide also pointed to Obama administration efforts to prepare facilities, personnel and foreign governments for the release of the study.
Important for those tracking relationships between the executive and legislative branches, the committee’s report makes the case that Congress, the White House and the public were misled by the CIA. While the leadership of the Intelligence Committee had been briefed as far back as September 2002, months after the transfer of Abu Zubaydah into CIA custody, the full committee wasn’t briefed until Sept. 6, 2006, the very same day that Bush first made the operations public.
CIA documents reviewed by the committee showed the agency said it planned to cremate Zubaydah if he didn’t survive harsh interrogations. At times, he was confined to small boxes, including one resembling a coffin.
“Briefings to the full committee contained numerous inaccuracies, including inaccurate descriptions of how interrogation techniques were applied and what information was produced from the program,” the committee’s majority said in a release.
The report suggests that the CIA also provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about how the interrogation program was viewed on Capitol Hill. The committee found that the CIA told the Office of Legal Counsel that there were no objections from senators looped in on the program, even though several senators, including Feinstein, had written letters to that effect, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had expressed the view that some practices constituted torture.
The panel’s report, the result of a years-long review of more than 6.3 million pages of documents including transcripts of interviews conducted by the CIA inspector general and the agency’s own history project, also points to questions by the Bush White House that did not receive complete or accurate responses from the intelligence world.
An internal CIA review “identified numerous inaccuracies in the CIA’s effectiveness representations,” the committee said in its statement.
In a statement, CIA Director John O. Brennan disputed several elements of the report, including the findings about inaccurate or misleading information provided to Congress.
“We also disagree with the Study’s characterization of how CIA briefed the program to the Congress, various entities within the Executive Branch, and the public. While we made mistakes, the record does not support the Study’s inference that the Agency systematically and intentionally misled each of these audiences on the effectiveness of the program. Moreover, the process undertaken by the Committee when investigating the program provided an incomplete and selective picture of what occurred,” Brennan said. “As noted in the Minority views and in a number of additional views of Members, no interviews were conducted of any CIA officers involved in the program, which would have provided members with valuable context and perspective surrounding these events.”
That internal study of documents, known as the Panetta Review, was perhaps the linchpin of the disagreement between the CIA and Feinstein over the agency’s snooping on the panel’s investigators.
The White House supported the release of the report despite a last-ditch effort by Secretary of State John Kerry last week to warn that its release could harm hostages.
“Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong — in the past. Today is also a reminder that upholding the values we profess doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us stronger and that the United States of America will remain the greatest force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney launched a preemptive attack Monday against the report in an interview with The New York Times.
“What I keep hearing out there is they portray this as a rogue operation and the agency was way out of bounds and then they lied about it,” he told the Times. “I think that’s all a bunch of hooey. The program was authorized.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said there was never a “good time” to release a report, but he said the administration has taken all necessary precautions to protect facilities across the globe.